Where Do You Draw the Line?

BHolt — September 22, 2011

A funny thing happened today. Scanning my facebook feed, I found out that many of my Progressive friends think government power should be limited! Now this was shocking. Moreover, it wasn’t just a few of my friends who felt this way. No, Progressives everywhere were calling for a limit on state power! What was happening? Why didn’t anybody tell me it was backwards day? Usually libertarians are the ones saying government authority is harmful, while liberals call those libertarians heartless and crazy.

Actually, I’d like to apologize to my progressive friends for the sarcastic tone of the previous paragraph. I am so accustomed to debate and disagreement that I sometimes can’t help but crow when progressives recognize the danger of unchecked state power.

The story that brought about this situation was the execution by the State of Georgia of Troy Davis, who was convicted of murder. Davis always maintained that he was innocent, and his supporters argued that there were flaws in the testimony that led to his conviction. Many of my progressive friends, and liberals around the internet see this case, and the death penalty in general, as a violation of human rights.

This is not an article about the death penalty, though. Frankly, I don’t know if there is a consensus among libertarians on the death penalty, but I personally oppose it. I originally intended to use this article to prove that even the staunchest progressives understand fundamentally that the individual must, at least at times, be protected from the state. In fact, what I want to argue is that libertarians and liberals should recognize how much they have in common,¬†particularly on social issues. Libertarians and liberals generally agree with each other on subjects such as drug criminalization, LGBT issues, and war. We¬†should cooperate where we can, rather than tear each other down. Why are we spending our time arguing over the issues we can’t agree on, when we could be out there together, defending the ideas we share?

I think there is a tendency among those of us who are politically-inclined to take absolute positions, and I think it’s a harmful habit. Because we are convinced that we are right, we must show our opponents where they are wrong. Although arguing can be satisfying, it may ultimately be counterproductive if it prevents us from finding points of mutual concern, or ruins a friendship. I will keep this in mind the next time I’m sitting and stewing, trying to think of the cleverest and most vindictive retort to post on Facebook.


David C says

BH: I share your sentiments.

— September 22, 2011

Ashley Johnston says

While I would not encourage vindictiveness, I am a fan of finding common ground, but this should not be confused with compromise.

At the Porcupine Freedom Festival, during one of the discussions about the usefulness of politics, somebody made the point that while he might vote to ‘free half the slaves’ you wouldn’t find him holding a sign campaigning to ‘free half the slaves’. I take this to mean vote for what you agree with, but campaign for what you believe in.

That is to say I will campaign with liberals to end the death penalty and war; I will vote for medical marijuana and tax credits for seniors, but I will not campaign to legalize half the drugs, or free half the tax slaves.

— September 23, 2011

Ben says

Ashley, that’s a great point, and I completely agree. I should have explained more clearly that I am in favor of collaboration, not compromise.

Sounds like you read Rothbard!

— September 23, 2011

Ashley Johnston says

I have actually never read Rothbard, but I’m sure I keep company with those that have.

— September 25, 2011

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